Newmarket laboratory to continue drug testing for Irish racing

Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board confirms that new four-year contract agreed with LGC and runs from the start of this year

The LGC laboratory in Newmarket will continue to undertake drug testing for Irish racing until the end of 2027.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) confirmed in its latest Equine Anti-Doping Report that a new four-year contract was agreed with LGC and runs from the start of this year.

The regulator said in its report the new contract was signed following a full public procurement process and described LGC as “specialists in the analysis of biological doping threats, anabolic steroid chemistry, hair analysis and gene doping”.

LGC was first appointed in 2019, taking over when the IHRB ended its long-standing association with the Limerick-based BHP lab.


Twice yearly anti-doping reports were recommended by Horse Racing Ireland in 2021 and the latest one covering the second half of 2023 has been released by the IHRB.

Its veterinary team took almost 3,000 samples from horses in that period, bringing the total for 2023 to 5,866. The report also said a further 17 “non-equine” samples were taken in connection with investigations, including from feed or medicinal products.

The IHRB reported that 1,501 samples were taken during Out of Competition Testing (OCT) during last year in total. Six (0.1 per cent) were confirmed as adverse analytical findings and involved medications or supplements prohibited on race day.

LGC reported that no prohibited-at-all-times substances were discovered in their testing in 2023. The IHRB said OCT is in the region of 25 per cent of all samples taken.

There were 161 OCT visits to premises last year with 756 hair samples taken.

Hair testing began here in 2020 and was central to businessman Luke Comer having his licence to train suspended for three years after 12 of his horses tested positive for anabolic steroids last year. Comer has appealed against that penalty although no date has been set for it to be heard.

The IHRB also said on Friday its stable inspection programme included veterinary examination and OCT carried out in collaboration with authorities in France, Britain, Racing Victoria in Australia, and the Breeders Cup in the US.

The IHRB’s head of anti-doping, Dr Lynn Hillyer, said: “Neither we at the IHRB, nor our racing international racing regulatory colleagues, can or will accept the use of drugs to affect performance or take shortcuts to rest and recuperation. We have evidenced this over the last three years in our equine anti-doping programme and are committed to taking it further.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column